When To Discard Your PFD? Requirements, Maintaining

Fact Checked By James A Rockey | Post Updated On: December 10, 2022
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There are few certain occasions when you should discard a PFD like if it is damaged, if the PFD doesn’t fit any more, if the PFD is past the expiration date, etc.

Key Takeaways

  • PFD stands for Personal Flotation Device and it is available in a wide variety of standard types, sizes, and colors
  • When purchasing a Personal Flotation Device, make sure your PFD has a Transport Canada approval stamp or label
  • If the PFD is damaged then you should immediately discard it and buy a new PFD
  • If the PFD doesn’t fit properly then you should change it immediately

When To Discard the PFD

Be honest: do you ever provide your lifejacket with some TLC or do you always take for granted that it will be there for you, as a fond dog? 

There are times when maximum resilience is a life and death situation, such as when a hydraulic is working like a washing machine and considering you like a dirty, old sock. Or, what would happen if you end up struggling for breath in frigid water on a gray October day? PFDs, like everything else, have limited lives. 

If it’s an important device for saving your life one day, extend its life as much as possible, and when the time comes, replace it.

Lili Colby, the Chief PSDiva at MTI Adventurewear, which manufactures only lifejackets and has done so for 25 years, understands what abuse their products go through at the hands of many paddlers.

“Many people come back tired from a paddling trip, and simply throw their lifejackets in the corner of their garage or in the bottom of their boat.”

You may be tossing your PFD into a dark corner. If you do, your PFDs can change into a Petri dish for mildew. This results in both breaking down fabric and flotation. This diminishes their competency for their usage in the future. It may be less likely to be useful to be worn.

So, how do you know your PFD is at peak performance and avoid any accidents?

Colby shares his insight, “It’s all about how well you take care of it. After each use, rinse it out with freshwater, and not just after saltwater paddling. Even the salt from sweat can reduce its lifespan. Then dry it out properly. Put it on a hanger and open the straps to let air get to it. Dry it right side out and then inside out.”

Just as it’s best to store a boat inside, so the same goes for your lifejacket too.

“Store them inside a boathouse or garage, out of the sun. Sun degrades the material. Fading is the first sign your jacket is getting worn out. Fading might not mean your jacket is compromised, but it’s a sign it’s headed that way.”

What are other signs that say it’s time to shop for a new lifejacket? 

Good indications of an invalid lifejacket are ripped fabric and frayed webbing. “There are expensive and inexpensive lifejackets,” Colby remarks. “The latter use cheaper foam, which breaks down. It can become dry and some have been recalled.

A lack of quality can seriously make your life hang in balance. It drastically shrinks your ability to survive a spill into literal dust.

Coast Guard inspectors in Key West, Florida recently reported they had discovered more than 60 lifejackets whose flotation had crumbled, broken, and even lost the fabric. 

Even though these lifejackets had been correctly stored away from sunlight and left dry, the unicellular foam likely debased due to high temperatures.

The Coast Guard urges that boaters watch out for compression of a lifejacket’s flotation foam, which diminishes buoyancy. This reduction in floatation can be caused by years of storage. Foam that is hard, stiff, or brittle can also cause a problem. A simple test is just pressing it to half its thickness. 

It should go back to its original thickness shortly. Another indicator you should be aware of is an expired lifejacket is creasing of the fabric causing the foam, which suggests the flotation foam has tapered, becoming less buoyant. 

The Coast Guard warns that lifejackets manufactured by The Safeguard Corporation should be particularly cared for in the earlier ways.

“If you bought something cheap, poke at it,” Colby says. “If your finger goes through it, you need a new one. The quality foam tends to keep its floatation qualities.”

Even if your lifejacket’s floatation is in fully functional order, if it’s too stretched, worn out, or plain old ugly, you’re not likely to wear it.

“Does it still fit you? People don’t want to wear mouldy, ill-fitting life jackets. Make sure it’s comfortable.”

A fully functioning lifejacket does not just work as an insurance policy, it’s the law. Mary Snyder, VP of Marketing at Absolute Outdoor/Onyx, emphasized,

The law states that your PFD must be in good condition before you go out on the water. If it is not in good shape, it should be destroyed and a new one should be purchased.”

You sure change the battery in a smoke detector. The same concept is applicable to your lifejacket.

Snyder said, “Another recommendation by the U.S. Coast Guard is to test your life jacket at the beginning of each season.”

About PFDs: Requirements, Maintaining, And Types Of PFDs 

About 70% of all boating victims suffered drownings, and the majority of those fatalities could have been prevented. Ninety percent of drowning victims avoided wearing a life jacket—drownings are uncommon when boaters are wearing a suitable PFD. 

One of the most significant things you can do to make a boating journey secure and pleasant is not only to bring enough life jackets for everyone on board but also to have everyone wear them!

What Are The Requirements For PFDs?

These requirements for PFDs are both compulsory and in the law.

PFDs must be easily available. Better yet, each person should put on a PFD because PFDs are hard to wear once you are in the water. In most deadly accidents, PFDs were on board but were not in use or the passengers didn’t have easy reach to it. 

If you are in the water without a PFD, recover a floating PFD and keep it to your chest by wrapping your arms around it.

PFDs must fit the wearer. It should be of the correct size for the proposed wearer. Always read the label of the PFD carefully to make certain it is the correct size. The appropriate size is calculated based on the person’s weight and chest size. 

It’s particularly significant to check that a child’s PFD fits cozily. Test the fit of the PFD by picking the child up by the shoulders of the PFD. Also, check that his or her chin and ears do not slip through the PFD.

Remember to:

1. Keep PFDs in Good and Serviceable Condition

2. PFDs must be in good and serviceable condition.

Regularly check a PFD’s buoyancy in low water or a swimming pool. After a while, the ultraviolet radiation from the sun will collapse the synthetic materials of your PFD. Regularly examine PFDs for rips or tears, stained or damaged material, weakened straps or zippers, or labels that are no longer clear. 

When Should You Replace The CO2 Cylinder In An Inflatable PFD?

Co2 cylinders are widely used in inflatable PFDs to provide buoyancy. But there is a time when you should be looking for a new one.

The co2 cylinder in an inflatable PFD is not meant to last forever. After a few years of use, the cylinder will start losing pressure and it might not work as well as before. At this point, it might be more efficient to invest in a new one than try to revive and repair the old one.

1. The cylinder needs to be replaced every three years depending on how often you use your inflatable PFDs.

2. When the CO2 level has dropped to less than 10% of its original capacity.

3. Every 24 hours of use if there is no visible leakage.

4. The most common time to replace the CO2 cylinder is when the tank gets punctured and you need to deflate your PFD. Other times for replacement are when you need a new tank because the old one has been used up and is unusable.

If you are looking for the best C02 Cylinder; then you should check Onyx C02 Auto Manual PFD Rearming Kit (it’s awesome and super reflective and has automatically deployed capabilities).

No products found.

In essence, If you are to use an inflatable PFD, then each outing should ensure the status of the inflator and that the CO2 cylinder has not been used, has no leaks, and is screwed in firmly. Also, make sure that the PFD itself produces no leaks by removing the CO2 cylinder and orally inflating the PFD. 

The PFD should still be solid after several hours. After an inflatable PFD has been inflated using a cylinder, substitute the exhausted cylinder and re-arm it. Because an inflatable PFD is an automatic device, it requires normal repairs. Keep up the inflatable part of the PFD as suggested in the owner’s manual.

Inflatable PFDs

Some people will tell you that they don’t put on their PFDs because they’re too hot or too massive. However, that should not be an excuse anymore. Inflatable PFDs present a U.S. Coast Guard–standard life jacket that is small and lightweight. 

There are some points to note down about Inflatable PFDs.

1. Inflatable life jackets are marketed in two styles: a PFD that looks like a couple of suspenders or a belt pack that looks like a small fanny bunch.

2. Some of these PFDs are designed to inflate if the wearer comes in contact with the water; others require the wearer to pull a cord for floatation. 

3. Inflatable PFDs are approved only for people 16 and older, and they are not to be worn on PWCs or while water-skiing.

4. Read the operating instructions and the approval label before you choose an inflatable PFD. Then be sure to wear it!

Bottom Line 

A personal Floatation Device is the most important accessory you’ll bring in your kayaking or canoeing journey. The device has to be in optimum condition. If you have been using one for too long, check whether you need to replace it.


  • https://www.precision-performance.com/blog/how-often-should-you-replace-your-life-jacket–23539
  • https://activelyoutdoor.com/when-should-you-discard-a-pfd/
  • https://pyenye.com/when-should-you-discard-a-pfd/

Last update on 2024-04-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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